South West Chef of the Year 2016 open for entries

The  Staff Canteen

The South West Chef of the Year competition is back and open for entries. Attracting the south west’s best culinary talent with professional and home cooks taking part, the competition is hotly contested in each of its five categories and continues to be one of the most exciting demonstrations of imagination, skill and proficiency in the region.

Michael Caines
Michael Caines

Semi-finals and finals take place at catering colleges throughout the south west and the competition culminates in a glittering awards presentation evening in the autumn.

Judged by exceptional chefs of the region, the panel is led by 2 Michelin-starred Michael Caines MBE who also co-founded the competition with the aim of both recognising excellence in the south west hospitality industry and nurturing the next generation of chefs and budding young cooks.

The competition provides a launch pad for contestants and winners alike with many going on to exciting careers at restaurants around the UK.  

 Michael said: “Taking part in South West Chef of the Year can provide a fantastic platform to further your career, even if you don’t win.  It’s a chance to demonstrate your skills to some of the South West’s top chefs and gain valuable publicity for your talents. The competition also promotes the exceptional produce we enjoy in the south west. I feel very proud to champion this.”

Previous winners of South West Chef of the Year include the award winning chef Simon Hulstone of The Elephant who has since gone on to represent the UK in the 2011 Bocuse d’Or; Ian Webber of The Five Bells in Devon recently awarded its first Michelin Bib Gourmand; Matt Mason of the multi-award winning The Jack in the Green, recommended by Alastair Sawday and Matt Downing of the acclaimed River Cottage. Joining Michael on the judging panel are Chris and James Tanner of Barbican Kitchen and Kentish Hare, Neil Haydock of Watergate Bay Hotel and Mark Dodson of The Masons Arms as well as Matt Mason, Ian Webber and many more highly accomplished chefs.

The categories are: Professional, Young Professional, Student Chef, Home Cook and Junior. Entry is now open for all categories except the Junior category which has now closed.

>>> Applications should be made by August 1, online at: 


The Professional category has been designed to challenge those of any age working in the industry at sous or pastry chef level, or above. To enter, Professional chefs must submit recipes for a starter and main; the menu must include whole pheasant in one course and scallops and razor clams in the other. Successful menus will go through to the semi-finals at Exeter College on 8th October. Chefs aged 19 to 24 years and working in any kitchen role within the industry up to and including junior sous chef, may apply to the Young Professional category which has the same entry requirements. Young Professional chefs must cook with whole partridge, smoked back bacon and whole sea trout.

For those aged 16 – 19 years, the Student/Apprentice category is for full-time students and apprentice chefs and has two possible entry routes. Regional catering colleges are invited to nominate a student to the semi-final while a number of places are reserved for individual entries made directly by students and apprentices. Those applying directly will be appraised by the judging panel. Again, the entry requirement is to submit a two course menu comprising a starter and main that use whole guinea fowl, monkfish tails and mussels. Those menus selected will go through to semi-finals to be held at Exeter College on 8th October.

The Junior category is for young cooks at school and aged between 11 and 16 years.  Entries for this category have already closed and selected entrants have been invited to prepare one main course dish of their choice at a catering college during the first county-based round to be held in June and July.

Michael added: "We are really pleased to offer finalists in the Junior category first rate mentoring to help them progress. The aim of this category is to help young cooks develop their skills and their interest in a career in catering.  For this reason, each finalist is mentored by one of the county judges who invites them into their kitchen to help them improve their skills, widen their understanding of various processes and gain valuable experience of a working, commercial kitchen. It’s an exceptional opportunity for young people with a passion for cooking."

The judges also recognise the fantastic talent of home cooks and invite those aged 16 years or above with no formal training in or work experience of the catering industry to enter the competition. Those interested in applying for the Home Cook category must devise a two course menu for two people; with a main that includes either pork tenderloin or whole sea trout and a dessert which uses one or more from the following list of ingredients: apples, pears, autumn berries, quinces and vanilla paste. Successful entrants will be invited to cook their menu at the final taking place at Ashburton Cookery School on 15th October.

A celebratory and lavish awards presentation will take place on 24th October at Exeter Golf and Country Club who also sponsor the event. As well as winners in each of the main categories there will also be presentations for Best Dish, Best Presentation, Best Use of Regional Produce and Best Menu. The ceremony concludes with the awarding of the prestigious overall South West Chef of the Year 2016 title to one of this year’s entrants. Tickets will be available for all who wish to enjoy an evening of food and celebration!

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st June 2016

South West Chef of the Year 2016 open for entries